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Old 12-27-2005, 10:38 AM   #1
"Frank"
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High level power abuse

I understand that this may rehash some prior topics that I read here but I think it may be just different enough to repost. Not to mention that its a real problem that I am going through as I type this. I have been studying for over three years at a wonderful dojo. It is as much a second home with family as a dojo. Very much family/church oriented. It is a Aikido school. The owner/Master is very high in ranking and very much respected. Circumstances have lead me to witness intimacy between a lower rank female and the Master. They are both married. I know the woman and she is indeed in a bad marriage and extremely vulnerable. I am very conflicted by the whole thing and would like suggestions as to how to handle this. Its all very un-Aiki, especially since the circumstance was actually in the dojo itself. Help, please.
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Old 12-27-2005, 12:48 PM   #2
Jim Sorrentino
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Re: High level power abuse

Frank,

I suggest that you talk with your instructor privately. Tell him that you saw him with the student, and that this makes you uncomfortable.

Depending on your relationship with the student, you might want to talk with her as well.

Good luck with this difficult situation.

Jim Sorrentino
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Old 12-27-2005, 02:16 PM   #3
Neil Mick
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Re: High level power abuse

Quote:
Circumstances have lead me to witness intimacy between a lower rank female and the Master. They are both married. I know the woman and she is indeed in a bad marriage and extremely vulnerable. I am very conflicted by the whole thing and would like suggestions as to how to handle this.
Well, respectfully: I disagree with Jim (please don't hurt me, Jim ).

Certainly, it is a difficult situation. There is much potential for abuse in an extra-marital relationship btw Sensei and student. And yes: I would personally call the Sensei's behavior irresponsible (definitely, outside the bounds of good etiquette, in many dojo's).

Quote:
Its all very un-Aiki
But "un-Aiki?" I have always been troubled by that term. And I think that while there is a good chance that your Sensei could be abusing his position: I would tread carefully, in casting about such labels or throwing my weight into situations where my opinions are unwanted, or unhelpful.

If you're the friend of the woman: I might talk it out with her; but IMO, tread carefully when broaching private matters with Sensei.
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Old 12-27-2005, 02:22 PM   #4
Aiki LV
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Re: High level power abuse

I can see why this would make you uncomfortable. This would be a hard situation to be in. If I was in your shoes I'd stay out of it. You probably don't want to be dragged into all of this. If they are so obvious about their "relationship" for one person to find out chances are others know too. Eventually one of their spouses is going to catch them or hear about what is going on through the grape vine. Either way it is their business let them deal with it. I can understand that this might be hard to do based upon the circumstances involved. No one likes to see anyone taken advantage of or for that matter, to stand by why something you feel is less than proper is going on. As far as I can tell this is not any of your business unless you are one of the parties involved or one of their spouses. I'm sure eventually things will get resolved one way or another, hopefully sooner rather than later. Good Luck to you.
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Old 12-27-2005, 03:28 PM   #5
Lan Powers
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Re: High level power abuse

Personal relationships complicate EVERYTHING.
I would have to agree with Mindy..... at least, from what information you have posted here.
respectfully
Lan

Play nice, practice hard, but remember, this is a MARTIAL art!
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Old 12-27-2005, 04:34 PM   #6
Jim Sorrentino
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Re: High level power abuse

I made my suggestion based on Frank's statement that he observed the behavior in the dojo. If the instructor and the student are adults and want to have an affair, that's their business. If they use the dojo to facilitate the affair, then it becomes dojo business.

And note that I advised Frank to speak with his teacher privately, and to speak with the other student only if he had some kind of already-existing relationship with her.

And I agree with you, Neil: throwing around terms like "un-aiki" is not helpful.

Jim
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Old 12-27-2005, 07:47 PM   #7
"Frank"
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Re: High level power abuse

I would like to thank you all for your input. I will think on this for a bit longer to determine the best approach for all involved. I do indeed know the woman as a very close friend with whom I have been a shoulder to cry on and a confidant to talk with about how to try and get her marriage back on track. It is for this reason that I know how vulnerable she is. There very well could be more to the story so I will tread lightly.
Neil, I understand what you are saying. It's his dojo, his business to run how he feels. But, on the other hand when you open a school that parents bring their children in to learn proper living you have to hold yourself accountable for your actions. Not to mention adults who might go out and open schools of their own following the Masters lead. My definition of Aiki would be harmony within and/or united in spirit. Would you not agree that this is creating an atmosphere of non-harmony? I am indeed trying to speak with her but she is avoiding me, go figure. I will indeed think very carefully about speaking with Sensei if and when I do.
Thank you Mindy, it is a mess indeed. Unfortunately, I am in the middle of it and I do not want others to find out for sake of the dojo. It affects my training and my training of the lower belts.

Thank you all again,

Frank

PS I have only been doing Aikido for just over 3 years…..did I hit some chord with the "un-Aiki" comment??
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Old 12-27-2005, 10:01 PM   #8
crbateman
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Re: High level power abuse

Just my opinion, of course, but I think that the chances are great that you will be sorry on some or many levels if you interject yourself into this. They are both adults, and responsible for their own actions and judgment, regardless of how ill-advised. Your involvement will only make it worse, and you stand very little to gain. If you fail to see the logic in this suggestion, then it may indicate that you have already decided to involve yourself, and are looking here for validation. Can't give it to you, sorry.
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Old 12-28-2005, 01:45 AM   #9
Neil Mick
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Re: High level power abuse

OK, whoah. I was all nodding along and humming and hemming at various points in this thread until I hit upon this line:

Quote:
I am indeed trying to speak with her but she is avoiding me, go figure. I will indeed think very carefully about speaking with Sensei if and when I do.
OK, I know nothing of your situation. But, here's my take on it:

Jim is right:

Quote:
If the instructor and the student are adults and want to have an affair, that's their business. If they use the dojo to facilitate the affair, then it becomes dojo business.
I might also add: if you're trying to speak with her but she's avoiding you, that's YOUR business. I do not know your situation other than what you've offered, but I would back away from any entanglement involving you, your Sensei, and/or the woman in question.

Just as a general rule: you don't want to make other people's business, your business...it's the makings for bad blood.

Now, if your Sensei is using the dojo as some sort of meeting-point, then yes: a talk with Sensei IS in order.

But if you saw them commit an indiscretion ONCE, well...! That's a little different.

To me, the question arises in often, how obvious, and to what degree is Sensei being indiscreet.

Quote:
It affects my training and my training of the lower belts
But, how? That's what I don't get.

Quote:
PS I have only been doing Aikido for just over 3 years…..did I hit some chord with the "un-Aiki" comment??
It is a term often misused to criticize all sorts of behaviours or actions. Just do a search of "un-aiki" in the aikiweb fora, to get a sense of what I mean.
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Old 12-28-2005, 04:19 AM   #10
"fffffff"
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Re: High level power abuse

Sorry,

I´d say: Mind you own stuff !
Even if the decided to have or stumbeled into an affair, this is their private business.
Unless their husband or wife does train at the dojo as well, there should be no effect on the dojo, appart from people gossiping. (Like you, even if it wasn´t your intention !)
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Old 12-28-2005, 06:22 AM   #11
Mary Eastland
 
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Re: High level power abuse

I think the name of this thread is wrong. There can only be power abuse if you give your power away. You are an adult and so are they. Women are not any weaker than men and don't need to be protected. I don't think what they do is any of your business. If you don't like it train somewhere else.
Mary
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Old 12-28-2005, 07:19 AM   #12
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: High level power abuse

I think the crux of the matter is that a dojo to many is more than just a place to practice aikido. By it's nature, most aikido dojo's are heavily based on the philosophy of aikido, which along with that comes a set of values and norms.

The problem arises when we see behavior that is contrary to the shared norms/values of the dojo. While people are free to behave and act as the want to, when it crosses into the dojo and becomes "uncomfortable" for even one member of the dojo, then the community as a whole has a conflict that must be resolved somehow.

I think most of us would like to think that the problem was not from the leadership of the dojo. When this happens, well, you can have severe problems in morale! It can divide a dojo and cause people to leave or to split into various "camps".

So this, IMHO, becomes "un-aiki".

This is why I favor dojo environments where there is a governing body or board and not a single "figurehead" or "owner". The board can serve to "vote" the person off the island or to admonish them if necessary.

I have no advice for the individual as each situation is unique. THere are many Courses of actions.

1. Leave dojo, start or find a new one.
2. Stay and accept behavior of the "owner"/sensei. (suck it up and drive on hope that time fixes things the right way).
3. Approach him/her and discuss and attempt to mediate to resolve the issue.
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Old 12-28-2005, 08:15 AM   #13
"Frank"
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Re: High level power abuse

Quote:
Mary Eastland wrote:
I think the name of this thread is wrong. There can only be power abuse if you give your power away. You are an adult and so are they. Women are not any weaker than men and don't need to be protected. I don't think what they do is any of your business. If you don't like it train somewhere else.
Mary
wow

Mary, with respect to your rank, if you can not see the abuse of power here I don't know what to say. It would not matter if it was a high level female in the power position it would still be very wrong. Martial Arts to me is not just training, the dojo is my home the people there are part of my family it is a way of life that I would miss very much. I guess some dojos are not like that, which makes even more a reason to find a good resolution and stay.

Kevin, thank you, I am beginning to wonder if I need to just "suck it up" and let it work itself out. Still not real sure what to do but this thread and the people on it have been very helpfull.
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Old 12-28-2005, 08:25 AM   #14
SeiserL
 
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Re: High level power abuse

Quote:
It affects my training and my training of the lower belts.
IMHO, while I personally would disapprove of the behavior, your reason for being there is to learn Aikido. Get out of your head about what you think other people should do with their lives and get you head and body back to training. If it distracts you too much, find another place to train.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 12-28-2005, 08:54 AM   #15
Jorge Garcia
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Re: High level power abuse

I think there are several different issue in play here.
1) One is the issue of Boundaries. In a sense, the dojo belongs to everyone. It is a shared place. What affects one affects all, even the people that don't know about the incident because it occurred in the dojo and particularly because it occurred between the instructor and a student. If a ship at sea sinks, it will affect all on board. Those that are awake, asleep, the captain and the employees. They are in a shared place and what affects one will affect all. If a restaurant is filled with cigarette smoke, everyone in there is going to breathe it and be affected by it although those that smoke all the time will have the greater effects on their bodies.
2) There is the issue of responsibility. The instructor and the student involve have responsibilities to themselves, each other and to the dojo members. The effects of their failure or moral relativity will affect them the most but there will be an effect on everyone else like the rings of water moving outward in a pond as others become aware of it. Even the person that saw it now has become involved by seeing it and has certain responsibilities to them self, and to the others whom this might affect. If the parties are married, these responsibilities become more telling and burdensome and the decisions involved become more difficult because a severe moral failure and betrayal is occurring right before your eyes. I was in a dojo once where the Sensei was cheating on his wife for years but we didn't know it for sure or first hand. We asked him and he said "no", so we believed him but his wife frequently came to the dojo and she was friendly to us, as we were to her. There were a few of us who were closer to the Sensei and after she found out what was going on, I am sure she came to the belief that we all knew and covered up for him. I had great respect for her and it hurt me a lot for her to think that I had a part in what that affair did to her family.

I would say that in the case of the issue of Boundaries, what they are doing is their business but they are doing it in the dojo and you have now seen it. I think you have a moral responsibility to tell both of them that you saw what you saw, that you want no part or involvement in the matter, that you wish you hadn't seen it but since that happened, you are compelled to let them know that it disturbed you and that they need to consider the ramifications of bringing that into the dojo. There are issues of an improper power relationship and inappropriate activity in the dojo. A psychiatrist shouldn't have a relationship with a patient nor a priest with a parishioner. Ask the responsible people and leaders of Aikido on this board if it is appropriate for a Sensei who is married to have an affair with a married student within his own dojo? Yes, It's his business what he does out there and he is responsible for himself but when he does it in the dojo, he has a responsibility to the members as well. I don't think that would be acceptable to the public if he put that as advertising on his brochures. We all know that the public doesn't expect that would be a good thing within your dojo.

If the dojo is a part of a larger organization, I would say you have a responsibility to tell the Shihan or President of the Association what you saw and then let him do what he wants. At that point, you are out of it.
You are all students of the same group and all have a responsibility to the same standards. If the dojo is independent or privately owned, then you have done all you can do.

Regarding responsibilities, you have one to yourself. Do want a Sensei that can't keep his business and his pleasure separate? Do you want a Sensei that breaks his marriage vows? Do you want a Sensei that gets involved in that kind of boundary crossing in the dojo and an improper relationship in the dojo? Those issues have now become your issues. If I were you, I would be looking for a new dojo.

You are not a moral police officer or a judge but you do have responsibilities and decisions to make for yourself. I agree that you should not cross boundaries yourself and get involved in their business and affair but that doesn't mean you don't have some responsibilities now to yourself and to your classmates. It's not your job to tell the others but you know something they don't know and you are responsible for what you know.

Kevin Leavitt is right when he said,
"I think the crux of the matter is that a dojo to many is more than just a place to practice aikido. By it's nature, most aikido dojo's are heavily based on the philosophy of aikido, which along with that comes a set of values and norms.
The problem arises when we see behavior that is contrary to the shared norms/values of the dojo. While people are free to behave and act as the want to, when it crosses into the dojo and becomes "uncomfortable" for even one member of the dojo, then the community as a whole has a conflict that must be resolved somehow.
I think most of us would like to think that the problem was not from the leadership of the dojo. When this happens, well, you can have severe problems in morale! It can divide a dojo and cause people to leave or to split into various "camps"."

Best wishes,

Last edited by Jorge Garcia : 12-28-2005 at 09:08 AM.

"It is the philosophy that gives meaning to the method of training."
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Old 12-28-2005, 10:44 AM   #16
Ed Shockley
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Re: High level power abuse

I am sure that it is a misuse of language but I utilize Sensei as someone who is a competent teacher of Aikido while Shidoin is someone who models the principles of the art. It's just a way to separate the ideas in my head. If I attend a dojo to learn the movement art and budo of Aikido then a gifted Sensei is enough. If I embrace the training as a life path then I am best served by a Shidoin. There is no right or wrong in this just a reflection of two possible attitudes toward my needs in a dojo. Based on this I can decide where I want to train and what behavior I require from an instructor. What I wouldn't want to do is project my choice onto another. Whatever I choose is about my needs not their behavior. Obviously it changes if someone is abusing another person as in kids class or torturing on the mat because of domestic disagreements but empowered adults have the right to make choices, even wrong ones. I am responsible only for myself and for defending the weak. So the question is, based on the definition above, "Do you require a Sensei or a Shidoin?"
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Old 12-28-2005, 11:50 AM   #17
Michael Hackett
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Re: High level power abuse

Often we observe things without truly understanding the context of what we saw. I have no idea of what "Frank" saw and interpreted as intimacy and it could have been something that was totally innocent. It could have been somethng more.

These apparently are two rational adults who are responsible for their own actions and the fall-out. Frank has no duty in the matter and should mind his own business. Obviously, at least in my opinion, he shouldn't lie for them or cover for them IF something inappropriate is going on, but otherwise he should give them the benefit of the doubt and put his efforts into his own training and the example he wants to personally set on and off the mat.

If that is too uncomfortable for Frank, he should consider training elsewhere.

Michael
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Old 12-28-2005, 12:30 PM   #18
aikidoc
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Re: High level power abuse

Ahhh, the complexities of abuse of power. I have many observations none of which make me comfortable.

I do disagree that he should mind his own business. By bringing it into the dojo and getting caught the instructor and student have made it the business of others. Even if we assume this is a consensual relationship, it is very complicated as it could not only destroy the dojo but the families involved as well. It has definitely upset the delicate balance of relationships within the dojo family. I get the impression the sensei and student are aware of Frank's catching them.

To me, this was a stupid move on both their parts. Strong words but I find it down right dumb. If you are going to misbehave, at least have enough common sense to keep it outside the dojo-rent a motel. It sets a bad tone for the values of the dojo: lack of discipline, lack of respect, abuse of power.

Lack of discipline-if a mutual love relationship has developed then go through the proper channels. Get divorces from your respective families and then pursue your relationships.

Lack of respect-lack of respect for the art and dojo and the members of the dojo in addition to personal lack of respect for oneself.

Abuse of power-no matter how you cut it, the instructor is in a power relationship and has abused that relationship. With positions of authority come responsibilities and expectations.

Good luck on this one. If it were me, I'd talk to the instructor and the involved student privately. I'd let them know I did not appreciate their involving me in the situation whether they intended to or not. I would let them know I expect them to fix the problem. Then, most likely, unless it was my only option, I'd seek out another place to train. I don't think the relationship could ever be the same since I would have lost respect for the instructor. But that's just me. I also wonder how many others are aware of or suspect the situation.
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Old 12-28-2005, 01:39 PM   #19
"Unregiste"
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Re: High level power abuse

So much for reigi.
Quote:
I have been studying for over three years at a wonderful dojo. It is as much a second home with family as a dojo. Very much family/church oriented. It is a Aikido school. The owner/Master is very high in ranking and very much respected.
Might be time to think more about why you like this place and if those reasons are really good for your training and your self or is it just comfortable and convenient. If your Master is highly ranked then they can't really give the George Costanza "was that wrong?" over his recent lookin' for love in the wrong places. Dojo is no place for empty rituals and hollow men.

Sounds like Frank has some good opportunities.
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Old 12-28-2005, 02:52 PM   #20
MaryKaye
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Re: High level power abuse

Something that I would certainly be asking myself as a female student: is this a singular event or is it part of a pattern? If it is a singular event, I would probably confine myself to, at most, making it clear that I didn't want to be a witness to this and they should not bring it to the dojo. But if there is a recurring pattern of mixing dojo business and personal business I'd be a lot more concerned.

Is the teacher just and impartial in testing and training? Does he clearly separate how he feels about a student from how he feels about a student's aikido?

Mary Kaye
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Old 12-28-2005, 10:04 PM   #21
Neil Mick
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Re: High level power abuse

OK, here's one for all you moral purists:

Relationships are complicated enough. Some of you seem to make the assumption that this Sensei committed some great evil, practically fornicating on the mat.

Herein lies the fallacy of empathizing overmuch with the narrator. "Frank" has presented us with a
story, if you will...a story in which he saw an "intimacy." On this little information alone, many of you assume that this is an abuse of his authority, that he should be called out on the carpet, etc, ad nauseum. Tsk.

Supposing Sensei was giving her a friendly hug, that went on for a wee-bit too long? You don't really know, the degree of the intimacy, do you? Yet, some of you are onboard here, talking about "abuse of power."

Again, it's about how much, how obvious, and how blatant is the indiscretion.

P.S. (With all due respect to "Frank," of course. I'm not suggesting that he's making things up--just that ppl assume a lot, from so little decription offered.)

Last edited by Neil Mick : 12-28-2005 at 10:08 PM.
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Old 12-29-2005, 03:42 AM   #22
Jorge Garcia
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Re: High level power abuse

Sorry Neil, but I think a few may have taken their hint from the name of the thread," High level power abuse". Who named the thread that anyway? If the thread were named "high level indiscretion", maybe the reaction would have been different.

"It is the philosophy that gives meaning to the method of training."
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Old 12-29-2005, 04:49 AM   #23
Michael Hackett
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Re: High level power abuse

I think Neil is spot on. The thread title was apparently written by "Frank" and represents his perception of what took place. His description of what was happening is lacking to form much judgement and the background of the situation is similarly missing. This could have been a horrible case of a person in power taking advantage of a weaker individual, but from what "Frank" said, we can't tell. It could just as easily have been a brotherly and supportive hug and the horror of the situation is "Frank's" overreaction. Unless "Frank" clearly knows what is going on, he should keep his own counsel, and unless it truly is a case of someone being abused, he should mind his own business. In the event that he's lost respect for the parties involved, he should dissassociate himself from them and scratch them from his Christmas card list.

Michael
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Old 12-29-2005, 06:53 AM   #24
"Frank"
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Re: High level power abuse

I think a lip lock and mirror hand to breast about covered it. Thats when I left, neither of them noticing that I was ever there.

Quote:
Neil Mick wrote:
OK, here's one for all you moral purists:

Relationships are complicated enough. Some of you seem to make the assumption that this Sensei committed some great evil, practically fornicating on the mat.

Herein lies the fallacy of empathizing overmuch with the narrator. "Frank" has presented us with a
story, if you will...a story in which he saw an "intimacy." On this little information alone, many of you assume that this is an abuse of his authority, that he should be called out on the carpet, etc, ad nauseum. Tsk.

Supposing Sensei was giving her a friendly hug, that went on for a wee-bit too long? You don't really know, the degree of the intimacy, do you? Yet, some of you are onboard here, talking about "abuse of power."

Again, it's about how much, how obvious, and how blatant is the indiscretion.

P.S. (With all due respect to "Frank," of course. I'm not suggesting that he's making things up--just that ppl assume a lot, from so little decription offered.)
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Old 12-29-2005, 07:46 AM   #25
Mary Eastland
 
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Re: High level power abuse

[quote]wow

Mary, with respect to your rank, if you can not see the abuse of power here I don't know what to say. It would not matter if it was a high level female in the power position it would still be very wrong. Martial Arts to me is not just training, the dojo is my home the people there are part of my family it is a way of life that I would miss very much. I guess some dojos are not like that, which makes even more a reason to find a good resolution and stay.

Hi Frank:
I know exactly what you are talking about.

And becasue I have been around for a while I have seen a bit.

We used to belong to an organization where "power" was taken and given. I never bought into it. While I admired the Sensei's Aikido I could never really see why I should act deferential because other people did. I am training to become strong and compassionate.

I was respectful and I appreciated his Aikido. His way of being off the mat was not something I aspired to become.

Nor do I expect him to be anything other than he is....a human being. (FLawed just like we all are.)

I am also very glad that we are now an independent organization that is not interested in the illusion of giving and taking of power.

Mary
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